The baddest man in Chinawood?
the superlative power of those fists of fury — until his eyes lock on to yours and narrow.
He often pauses before answering questions, shifts into philosophical gear, and then gives a deadly or thousand-yard stare when he is done.
He is just as likely to break out in a mischievous laugh and invite you to join him on the Play Station as finish a sentence by exhaling slowly from the back of his throat, as though a demon were trying to claw its way out before he chains it back up inside.
Tyson was nursing a fractured left index finger the morning we met from sparring with lead actor Donnie Yen onset the day before. When asked whether Yip Man, the hero, gets to beat him up, a smile crept onto his lips.
“I don’t know about that. You’ll just have to watch the movie,” said Tyson, who also appeared in Scary Movie 5 and Meet the Blacks, now in post-production “He’s got some bruises, too.”
Ip Man 3 is due out in China in February 2016. American distributors are already being courted.
Director Wilson Yip was impressed enough by Tyson’s performance to add more fight sequences and scenes for the actor, according to Max Screen, the local distributor. Media reports claimed Tyson is learning Chinese and that the key scene will play out in an abandoned factory.
“It was very exciting to work with him,” said Yen, who posted photos online earlier last week showing a hugely swollen right hand. “We were able to understand each other really well.”
In the previous two films, Yip Man fought a sadistic Japanese sergeant, pitting wushu against karate, and a racist British boxer. In No 3, Yen looks set to face a pair of villains painted various shades of gray. Tyson’s is in league with Hong Kong’s chief of police.
“Most trilogies are never better than the first part. This one is going to step up. A lot of drama, more realistic. It’s real. Life on life’s terms,” said Tyson.
Reports say Ip Man 3 will be released in 3D and feature a CGI Bruce Lee as no convincing actor could be found to portray the kungfu icon. All filming is being done on location in Shanghai and at Hengdian World Studios in Zhejiang, dubbed “Chinawood”.
The movie focuses more on the student-teacher bond between Lee and Yip, something Tyson, who found in coach Cus D’Amato a surrogate father figure, could relate to.
D’Amato was able to repair the troubled teen’s fragile sense of self but tragically died one year before Tyson stunned the world by dropping into the ring like an atom bomb to snatch the World Boxing Council title.
“The only way a person can be truly successful is if he has a mentor that he wants to impress and make happy,” he said.
“I wanted to impress Cus. I wanted to make him happy. I don’t know if I ever thought I could be heavyweight champion, but he made me feel that way. And I knew if I did that, he would be proud of me. My goal in life was to get his acceptance.”
Reflecting on his tumultuous life and career, which involved a disastrous marriage to Robin Givens, several years in jail, a law suit against former promoter Don King, and a notorious ear-biting incident with four-time world heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield, Tyson said he has never looked back.
“I never regret once that I retired (from boxing),” he said.